The “Camp Rock” and “Step Up” star said she admitted herself to an “outpatient variation,” an experience she said is still so painful “her legs started shaking at the thought of reliving some of it.”
Having grown up in a religious environment that did not support the reality of the LGBTQIA+ community, actress and dancer Alyson Stoner said she struggled with feelings of self-worth after she first fell in love with a woman, leading her to admit herself into an “outpatient variation” of traditional gay conversion therapy.
The emotional struggles and confusion she was feeling due to her upbringing were only exacerbated by her experiences in this form of “therapy,” which she said is still “legitimately difficult” to talk about.
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“My mind doesn’t want to even go there,” the “Camp Rock” and “Step Up” star told Insider. “My legs started shaking at the thought of reliving some of it.”
The tragedy was that she was in such a bad place mentally and within herself voluntarily heading into this program, and it apparently did very little to help her.
“I felt stuck. I felt wretched. I felt like everything was wrong with me, even though I, in my heart of hearts, only desired to be a devoted follower of God,” said Stoner, explaining why she felt the need to seek conversion therapy after realizing she had fallen in love with a woman. Stoner identifies as pansexual.
“To hear from people you trust, from people you respect, from people you might even aspire to become, that you at your core are ‘rotten,’ ‘abominable,’ that the devil has a target on your back because of your position in Hollywood,” Stoner said. “It just sends you into a spiral, at least for me, because I just wanted to do the right thing.”
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She said that as she listened to the pastors trying to present their point of view about the LGBTQIA+ community, she came to understand that they were coming from the same influences and life experiences she was, but also from a different, perhaps less tolerant time period.
While she opted not to go into specifics about what she experienced during this “therapy,” she said that it started playing havoc with her sense of self-worth and even drove her to very dark thoughts.
“I still was considering whether my life was worth living or, if everything was wrong with me, then what good was it for me to be around,” she explained. “Starting to see myself as someone who only brought harm to other people in society.”
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She said the experience created a strange disconnect between her body and mind, with her coming to see her body as something “shameful, that is not to be trusted.”
“It actually ends up messing with my ability to foster genuine relationships with others and myself, because now I’m suppressing a voice,” she continued. “I’m trying to change something that is what I now understand very natural.”
She emphasized that her experiences are not unique, either, saying the “dangers are measurable” of some types of gay conversion therapy. “Even if someone comes out of it on the other side and says, ‘Hey, no, I’m living a great life,’ there are scars there. There are shadows.”
As for her own experience, Stoner said she’s actually not “capable yet of going back and recounting specifics, which is an indicator of just how difficult that chapter was for me.”
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Controversy over conversion therapy programs continues, with many states prohibiting any licensed mental health professional from treating minors in this way. Such programs still exist, though, with many operated by conservative religious groups.
Stoner first opened up about her sexuality three years ago in an essay penned for Teen Vogue magazine, where she wrote eloquently about her own awakening after an electrifying encounter with a dance instructor who would go on to open her world to its own truth.
Even there she hinted at the struggles she had as a relationship developed and the faith she had been raised in, talking about how “certain pastors and community members tried to reverse and eliminate” Stoner’s attraction to the woman before she finally came to accept herself just as she was.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress.